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The number of births continues to decline, despite abortion bans. • Indiana Capital Chronicle

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Births continued to decline historically in all but two states last year, making it clear that a brief post-pandemic surge in the country’s birth rates had everything to do with planned pregnancies temporarily postponed by COVID-19.

Only Tennessee and North Dakota saw small increases in births between 2022 and 2023, according to a Stateline analysis of preliminary federal data on births. In California, the number of births fell by 5% this year, or almost 20,000. And like most other states, there will be consequences for schools and the workforce now and down the road, said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, who tracks birth trends.

“These impacts are already being felt in many California school districts. Which schools will close? That is a controversial issue,” Johnson said.

In the short term, having fewer births means lower state costs for services like subsidized child care and public schools, at a time when aging baby boomers are straining resources. But ultimately, the lack of people could impact the workforce needed to both pay taxes and fuel economic growth.

Young adults are still adjusting to a recovering economy, including having children.

– – William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution

Nationally, births are down 2% this year, similar to pre-pandemic declines, after rising slightly over the past two years and falling 4% in 2020.

“What these numbers show more than anything is that the long-term decline in births, beyond the downward spike and upswing of COVID-19, is continuing,” said Phillip Levine, professor of economics at Wellesley College.

To keep population levels constant over the long term, the average woman must have 2.1 children in her lifetime – a measure considered the “replacement rate” for a population. Even in 2022, every state fell below that figure, according to final 2022 data released in April. The rate ranged from a high of 2.0 in South Dakota to less than 1.4 in Oregon and Vermont.

Trends for Latina Women

The drop in births wasn’t as steep in some heavily Hispanic states that restricted abortion in 2022, including Texas and electoral battleground state Arizona. In Arizona and Texas, births fell by just 1%. When health clinics closed, many women may not have been able to obtain reliable contraception or, if they became pregnant, obtain an abortion.

According to the Stateline analysis, the number of Hispanic births rose in states where abortion is most restricted, while the number of non-Hispanic births fell in the same states. However, it is difficult to say what role abortion access has played compared to immigration and people moving to growing states like Texas and Florida.

In states where access to abortion is most protected, birth rates fell for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic women.

“The most important conclusion for me is the likely increase in poverty for all family members, including children, in families affected by a lack of access (to abortion and contraception),” said Elizabeth Gregory, director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality at the University of Houston.

Many of the most Latinx states where abortion and contraception are more freely available saw the largest declines in births: about 5% in California, Maryland, Nevada and New Mexico.

“Hispanic women as a group face more challenges in accessing reproductive care, including both contraception and abortion,” Gregory said in a university report earlier this year. “Unplanned births often have a direct impact on women’s labor force participation and negatively impact the income levels of their families.”

Hispanic women have more children on average than black or white women. Their fertility rates rose through much of the 1980s and 1990s, then fell to nearly the same levels as other groups in the late 2000s. That’s because both abortion and more reliable contraception have become more widely available, Gregory said.

The fact that some of the sharpest declines occurred in the heavily Hispanic states outside of Arizona and Texas suggests that Latina women are continuing their trajectory toward smaller and delayed families typical of other groups.

Most of California’s decline is linked to fewer babies born to Hispanic women, especially immigrants, says Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California.

“California has a high share of Latinos compared to other states, and so the decline in fertility in that group has a huge effect on the overall decline in California,” he said. California wasn’t above replacement fertility until 2008, he added, and would still be there if Hispanic fertility hadn’t fallen. California is about 40% Hispanic, about the same as Texas and second only to New Mexico at 50%.

Birth rates also fell sharply in heavily Hispanic Nevada and New Mexico, falling by about 4% each between 2022 and 2023. But Arizona, Florida and Texas, also among the top 10 states for Hispanic population share but growing faster, saw relatively small declines. of about 1%.

Texas banned nearly all abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The state also requires parental consent for contraception, a rule that has also applied to federally funded family planning centers since a lower court ruling that same year.

Arizona also saw a drop in abortion rates in 2022. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, an Arizona judge has revived enforcement of a near-total ban on the procedure that was enacted during the Civil War era . Many clinics closed and never reopened.

The number of abortions in the state fell from more than 1,000 per month in early 2022 to 220 in July 2022, and has never fully recovered, according to state data. The number of abortions fell by 19% this year. The number of births in that year increased slightly, by 500, compared to 2021.

In Texas, Gregory’s research at the University of Houston saw an effect on Hispanic births when an abortion ban went into effect in 2021. Fertility rates rose 8% that year for Hispanic women aged 25 and older, the report said.

Both Texas and Arizona are also growing rapidly, making the smaller declines in births harder to interpret, noted Arizona state demographer Jim Chang. Chang declined to comment on the effect of abortion accessibility on the state’s birth rate.

Budget effects

Overall, the continued decline in the birth rate could have significant implications for state budgets in the future. The decline portends further declines in enrollment at state-funded public schools, which have already seen higher dropouts since the pandemic.

“The decline we are seeing in enrollment since COVID-19 is a bigger problem than just the decline in birth rates,” said Sofoklis Goulas, an economic studies fellow at the Brookings Institution. Rural schools and urban high schools have been particularly hard hit, according to a Brookings report Goulas wrote this year.

“We don’t have a clear answer. We suspect that many people are homeschooled or go to special schools and private schools, but we don’t know for sure,” Goulas told Stateline.

Still, states must recognize declining births as an emerging factor in state budgets to avoid future budget shortfalls, said Jeff Chapman, a research director who monitors the trend at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Nationally, the number of births to women over age 40 has increased slightly, indicating a continued trend toward delayed parenthood, said William Frey, a demographer at Brookings.

“The last two years after the pandemic do not necessarily indicate longer-term trends,” Frey said. “Young adults are still adjusting to a recovering economy, including having children.”